False Freedoms: On the Terror in Mumbai | Jose Yulo | Ignatius Insight | November 28, 2008
False Freedoms: On the Terror in Mumbai | Jose Yulo, Ed.D. | Ignatius Insight | November 28, 2008
If I'm offered a choice between A and B, I'm free to choose one or the other, but it's
a case of very limited possibilities. Suppose I want both A and B...I'm presented
with an array of unlimited options, I have the opportunity to fulfill myself as
an autonomous agent...That's what I call "freedom." -- Lucifer, in Raymond Dennehy's
Aristotle, is a property of the will which is realized through truth. It is
given to man as a task to be accomplished. There is no freedom without truth. -- Pope John Paul II, Memory and
The day before
Thanksgiving was one of horror and sorrow for the citizens of Mumbai and all of
India. Seemingly from out of nowhere, a thoroughly organized and systematic
plot to spread wanton carnage and death commenced in this city, a situation yet
unresolved at the time of this writing.
attacks were hotels frequented by western expatriates, seized and followed by
ensuing hostage standoffs. Most recently, a Jewish outreach center was taken
by gunmen, all happening as U.S.-based representatives of the group were
literally cut off in mid-sentence on the phone from the resident rabbi in
The shock of the
day's events are perhaps best described by an eyewitness to the attack on
Chhatrapati Shivaji rail station. As the survivor recounted: 'Four boys
rushed in. They wore black T-shirts and blue jeans...They just fired randomly at
people and then ran away.' These shootings appeared timed to the late night
commute when the work-weary looked forward to a temporary reprieve from the
In the last
count, 150 were dead, a number expected to increase steadily through the next
day. Over 250 people were injured and an unaccounted for number possibly
forcibly held against their will.
dramatically occurs so soon during the time of our nation's annual, traditional
period of reflection, it remains for those fortunate enough to reflect to ask that
most human of queries: Why?
This is perhaps made more difficult for a people who recently experienced the
wracking and throes associated with the process of selecting its leaders. It
is to be argued, however, this is all the more reason to ask such questions.
New leaderships ought waste little time in asserting the highest aspirations of
the citizens they represent, especially if these assertions translate to
understanding the needs of an allied nation.
there may at first surface an amount of dismay from certain partisan groups at
the timing of such terror. How, since the United States has so chosen such an
internationally popular incoming administration, could such attacks still
bedevil its world allies? Two lines of thought soon surface in answer. First,
the plots could be the products of malignant groups attempting to test the will
and reserve of a foe, both direct, in the case of India, and indirect, in the
case of the new Washington regime. This would not be too far a reach since, by
definition, transitional periods are not typified by entrenched resolve and
strength. Second, these attacks could merely be residual animus accrued over
the last decade against an unpopular presidency, soon to be hopefully smoothed
over by newer alliances between nations built on commonly shared worldviews.
assumption may be, at first glance, more realistic than the latter. However,
the possible merits of the first scenario do not comprehensively extend to
describing the flawed reasoning present in the second.
have begun pointing out the selective choosing perpetrated by the terrorists.
The United States and Britain have been the two main driving forces for the War
on Terror in neighboring regions. Other European foreigners were let go by the
shooters in mid-rampage, while passports were checked explicitly for Americans
and Britons. Obviously, this line of reasoning would have it, the Atlantic
allies lit one too many a match, necessitating a conflagration that torches
innocents as well. The errors of this position comprise misconceptions of
As the above
thinking goes, since the United States and Great Britain move to strike
preventively at terrorist targets beyond their own borders, terrorist organizations
return fire in their own uncanny manner. First, this immoderately implies that
allied targeting of terrorist camps is somehow the equivalent of men with
Kalashnikovs kidnapping and shooting unarmed civilians, a shaky equivalence to
say the very least. Second, it somehow dreamily implies reason, a requisite of
reciprocity, is present in both parties.
The very lack of
equivalence mentioned above would simultaneously assert a lack of such reason,
or worse, a deliberate refusal to deal in this currency by the terrorists.
When only one party in a conflict is possessing and expecting rationality,
there is almost by definition, no reciprocity. One side is free to wreak
whatever havoc it wishes, while the other mires itself in bogs of its own vain
Apart from a
focus on the assumed liability burdening the Washington and London, there is an
alternate chorus echoing a far broader call. Understanding the predicaments of
the would-be enemies is stressed, with an emphasis on the economic and social environments
around which such animus is incubated. As the reasoning maintains, these
actions stem from certain economic and social inequities, driving those who
suffer these conditions to indiscriminately maim and murder since it is the
sole outlet of their collective pathos.
mistaken reciprocity above assumes the possession of reason where there is
none, here in contrast there is the assumption of a lack of rational
capabilities in the other party altogether. Blame, after all, cannot be assigned
to the unreasoning, since they know not what they do. Yet, again in vanity,
this condescension leaves only one party possessing the requisite rationality
to be held accountable for one's actions. One side is free to wreak whatever
havoc it wishes, while the other, like a negligent parent, holds itself liable,
if only to keep the conversation's focus on itself.
inimitable Fr. James Schall, S.J., once wrote that 'stoicism is the gateway to
pride.' Stoicism, like the self-obsession masked as pity mentioned above,
removes the self from meaningful contact with others into an isolated cocoon of
simulated emancipation. But what of the freedom twice seen to be the province
of the terrorist? How can the slaughterers of Mumbai appear so organized and
focused, yet seem so willful and chaotic? The answer lies in their perception
of freedom, a quality they misconstrue along with terrorism's rationalizers.
terrorists forwarded an argument, such as their actions being directly and
literally reciprocal and just payment for a past affront, this would confine
him into a narrow, and selective avenue of choice. If he gave no reason for
his actions, or more often than not, false and misleading ones, then he would
not need to operate under the burdens of being true to his search for justice.
He could operate forever in the shadows between worlds, seeking to serve
justice and truth only when convenient, and only when these served himself.
misunderstood however, is the cost of this false freedom. For one who
rationalizes terror, hoping to occupy the elevated seat of emancipated
enlightenment, there is a risk of having the legs of the seat chopped down
unceremoniously out from under him. Or worse, this inability to truly confront
the malignance one experiences may allow, more than those who combat terror,
the loss of unwilling innocents.
practice terror, on the other hand, believe their unique status affords them
the license to do whatever they wish, unbound by convention and scruple. Yet,
they fail to see the significance of this shadow-life. As the dead in Homer's
Odyssey waft to and fro Tartarus as mere shades of their once mighty selves,
these who bring such pain to others are blind to their own loss of humanity.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Links, Columns, and Articles:
Spartans, Traitors, and Terrorists | Dr.
Martyrs and Suicide Bombers | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
On the Term "Islamo-Fascism" | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
Plato's Ring in the Sudan: How Freedom Begets Isolation of the Soul | Dr.
The Echo of Melos: How Ancient Honor Unmasks Islamic Terror | Dr.
From Defeat to Victory: On the Question of Evil | Alice von Hildebrand
Jose Yulo, Ed.D. teaches courses on philosophy, western civilization,
United States history, and public speaking at the Academy
of Art University in San Francisco. He has a Doctorate in Education
from the University of San Francisco, with an emphasis on the philosophy
of education. He also holds a Master's degree in political communication
from Emerson College in Boston, as well as a Bachelor's degree in the classical
liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, MD.
Originally from Manila
in the Philippines, his research interests lie in Greek philosophy, the
histories of Greek and Roman politics and warfare, and the literature of
J. R. R. Tolkien. He has written several articles for IgnatiusInsight.com.
If you'd like to receive the FREE IgnatiusInsight.com
e-letter (about every 2 to 3 weeks), which includes regular updates
about IgnatiusInsight.com articles, reviews, excerpts, and author appearances,
please click here to sign-up today!